Ask any single woman in New York what it’s like to date in the concrete jungle and you’ll receive a myriad of responses that run the gamut from Charlotte York-like trysts with billionaire bankers to Samantha Jones-esque escapades with hot bartenders and five-alarm firefighters. One thing you won’t hear, however, is that navigating the scene and finding love amongst the bright lights is easy (this isn’t Paris, people). But for 21-year-old model Vanessa Axente, dating is a breeze in the big city.
When the super picked me up on a sunny afternoon in Brooklyn in a pimped-out ride replete with a full-on garden in the backseat in honor of DKNY’s new Nectar Love fragrance (for which she is the face), she had no disastrous, Cosmopolitan-worthy date stories to share. “I’ve been lucky,” she said with a sly smile. “I’ve never done Tinder and I don’t want to. All I know is that you have to swipe!” Her Australian beau of two years was her first—and last—taste of the dating scene in NYC. (Apparently, it’s the Germans who will break your heart…more on that later.) “I think in New York you have everything,” explained Axente. “You can go on amazing dates or meet some really crazy guys.” And it’s true, Manhattan and the boroughs are like a buffet of less-than-scrumptious sociopaths…and the occasional gem, which in buffet terms might be the DIY soft-serve machine at the end of the meal. (Let’s just say Axente skipped the plethora of crap and went straight to dessert.)
Perhaps Axente has avoided the pitfalls of dating because she smells amazing? While it’s probably not just DKNY’s latest blend of grapefruit, jasmine, beeswax, and vanilla (she is, after all, a supermodel who was born with six-pack abs), it certainly doesn’t hurt her cause. “It’s a very nice, summer-y perfume,” she said. “There is a twist that gets your attention, but it’s not too much.” It also seems to attract the opposite sex to the sunny blonde like a bee to a flower, so for all the single ladies out there, consider a spritz or two before your next Bumble date.
Here, the Hungarian beauty shares her fool-proof backseat makeup beat, explains what it’s like to kiss a smokin’ hot stranger, and how not to pick her up in Saint-Tropez.
Amber Kallor: Seeing as we are doing this interview on the go, what is your backseat makeup beat?
Vanessa Axente: To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever done my makeup in the car! I was trying to fix my lips on the way here, but driving in New York, the roads are so bad, you need to be a pro to be able to do it well! Very natural lips I could maybe do in the car, and mascara isn’t that difficult. But if you have to do red lips, forget it, that wouldn’t work!
AK: So, you aren’t baking and strobing in the backseat before snapping a selfie?
VA: I can never understand that! The young girls do that. My [little sister] is crazy about vloggers, but she wears natural makeup—just mascara and little bit of blush. I always tell her to stay natural and be yourself. I feel like all these young girls try to hide because they aren’t confident.
AK: What beauty products do you always keep in your bag on the go?
VA: In the city, I always have Estée Lauder Double Wear concealer with me. I also use Omorovicza lip balm and Clinique Chubby Sticks because it’s not really a lipstick, but it moisturizes and it’s perfect for day. I wear very little makeup. I do my mascara in the morning and use a Omorovicza mist in the summer.
AK: During New York Fashion Week, what do you do in the back of the car when you’re rushing from show to show?
VA: I try to get the pins out of my hair. It looks funny when I’m running around in the car. Oh my god, when you have to open a ponytail—it’s pain! They don’t use a regular ponytail holder, they use a string of elastic. I also try to remove my makeup. I always ask the makeup artist from the previous show to give me cotton pads with makeup remover on them and I try to do everything in the car and eat! I don’t eat the food backstage because it’s rare you have something good. I always carry fruit with me, like a banana or apple, and almonds. Then, I try to have a nice lunch or dinner when I have more time.
AK: To get around NYC, do you typically catch a cab or the subway?
VA: I walk a lot, or I take the subway if I’m in a hurry. If I’m wearing heels and I go to dinner, I take a car!
AK: You started modeling at 14, which is the same year you can drive a motorbike in Hungary. Do you have your license?
VA: No, my parents wouldn’t let me! I always wanted to get a red Vespa—that was my dream! But it’s very dangerous. When I was 14, we lived in a small village and it’s a 15-minute drive to get to the town and it is very busy road with a lot of trucks.
AK: Have you ever lived out your dream by riding on the back of a Vespa in Milan or Paris when you are rushing between shows?
VA: I love it! It’s so much fun! The Honda [motorbikes] are like a bathtub—they are so big, you can almost lay down. I enjoy riding the motorbike. In the city, it’s better. It’s so amazing to see everything. They can play music and it’s a very different experience. Sometimes I’m more scared of being in a car! With a motorbike or scooter, you can always go on the outside lane and if the driver is good, he knows when to move.
AK: What is the craziest turnaround time you’ve had between shows?
VA: There was one when I was at Valentino and the show was, of course, running late. My eyebrows were bleached, so they had to dye them back. I also had extensions. After that show, I had to run to McQueen. It was really far—the show was at the opera house in Paris—and it was a really small collection with all these beautiful white dresses. They had to hide all my hair and put on this scarf, and we were done with everything about 10 minutes before show time. To put on those dresses with the corsets—it was the most stressful thing! At least the [motorbike drive who shuttled me between shows] spoke English and said, "Don’t worry, you’re going to be there very fast!" He made me feel a bit more relaxed.
AK: During this past Couture season, photographers caught you coming out of Jean Paul Gaultier showing off your incredible abs. Let’s talk about ‘em.
VA: I work out a lot, but I’ve been traveling for the last month, so I haven’t had time. I was actually surprised when I saw the photo, I said, Oh, wow, I still have abs! Sometimes I make a joke that I was born with a six-pack. I found some old photos when I was five or six and I had a six-pack! I played basketball for five years and I danced, so I was always doing sports. Since I started modeling, I started going to the gym because I had to stop all the team sports. Usually, I go to the gym since I’m traveling a lot, but if I’m in New York for more than a week, I do SoulCycle and Ballet Beautiful. Ballet Beautiful is really good. I always had muscles, but when I was doing Ballet Beautiful, things really transformed. I do exercises I haven’t done for a long time and use muscles I’ve never used before. It changed my body so much. When I go to the gym, I run on the treadmill for 20 minutes to make sure I get some cardio in, then I do abs—about 100 different kinds, side crunches and center crunches. I use light weights as well.
AK: Since DKNY Nectar Love is all about “undeniable attraction,” let’s discuss your first date.
VA: I was still in high school, so my first date was with—I don’t know if I can call him my boyfriend?—but I was still in Hungary and I was 16. We just went to a café. In a small town, there’s not much you can do! So, we had a small cake and talked a little bit.
AK: What about your first date in NYC? I imagine that was a bit different than cake and coffee.
VA: My first date in NYC was very different! I met my boyfriend in New York and that was also my first date, so I’ve only been on one date. I was 19, so we met two years ago. We met through a common friend. Our first date was very romantic—we met at Grand Banks during sunset and had a drink. Then, we went to Locanda Verde—it’s still one of my favorite restaurants. Then, he walked me home…and I went to my apartment and he went to his!
AK: How does the dating scene in NYC differ from other parts of the world?
VA: I think it’s more straightforward. I’ve only been on a date with one guy, but I don’t think people like to waste time. I was dating my boyfriend for six months. Here, you have so many opportunities—you can go to a museum or restaurants, you can go upstate or to the Hamptons. You can also watch a musical. There is so much to do and see.
AK: How did you know you were done with the dating scene and your boyfriend was the one? You didn’t get to sample the plethora of quality men in this city…
VA: Definitely his personality. He’s very charming, very smart, and he has a good sense of humor. Even from the very beginning, every time we had a conversation, I would just sit there listening. We always had a good time.
AK: Have you ever had a disastrous date here or abroad?
VA: I don’t think so! I’ve been lucky. I’ve never done Tinder and I don’t want to. All I know is that you have to swipe! I think in New York you have everything—you can go on amazing dates or meet some really crazy guys.
Axente and her Tony Awards date, Joseph Altuzarra
Photo: BFA.com. View more at BFA.com.
AK: You’re certainly correct about the crazy part, but you might be the only woman on the planet who hasn’t had a disastrous dating experience. Then again, there is still time! What is your dream date?
VA: It happened already, but for my birthday, my boyfriend took me to the bar at The Carlyle and we listened to jazz music. We had champagne. Then, after that we went to Nobu uptown, which is very nice. The end was a bit weird because we went to a club and it was completely empty—we were the only couple. It was quite amazing because we had a club all to ourselves! But maybe I would change that part to a nice musical instead. We’ve been to Hamilton and that was the best! I also went to the Tony Awards two years ago with Joseph Altuzarra.
AK: I’m sure you’ve been privy to quite a few, but what’s the best pick-up line you’ve ever heard?
VA: Recently I was in Saint-Tropez, and a random dude—I mean it’s not the best, but he said: “How come nobody ever introduced us before?” It was so bad! Since I have a boyfriend, I don’t really show any signs that I’m interested in other guys.
AK: Speaking of random dudes, have you ever kissed a stranger?
VA: OK, yes, on a job. It was a long time ago, but I was shooting the Calvin Klein jeans campaign with Matt Terry. Thank god they didn’t use those pictures! I was still in school and only 16, so I didn’t want all my classmates and teachers to see I was kissing a guy. It was just a photo kiss.
AK: What is your sign and what do you think it says about you?
VA: I don’t know much, but my sign is Scorpio. I’m very reliable and friendly, and when I make true friendships, people can count on me. My boyfriend is an Aquarius. My mom is a Scorpio, her birthday is the day before mine, and my dad is an Aquarius. It worked, but they found out two years ago, that they are the biggest enemies according to the Chinese star signs!
AK: They bore a supermodel, so it can’t be that bad. Do you believe in love at first sight?
VA: Yes and no. I liked my boyfriend from the first time we met, but it wasn’t love at first sight. I had a relationship before that was love at first sight, but it ended very soon. The person was from Germany, but we met in Belgium. Be careful with German guys!
Photo: BFA.com. View more at BFA.com.